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How to easily create and configure a Kanban Board in Jira 🙌 Step-by-step guide 💡

 

Jira Software remains the undisputed leader in agile project management tools, according to Digital.ai's latest annual State of Agile report. After all, more than 65,000 organizations worldwide, including major corporations such as Spotify, eBay and Airbnb, trust the powerful task management system Jira.

But "using" it and "using it efficiently" can be worlds apart.

One of the best ways to use Jira Software with maximum power is to leverage Kanban boards. In this article, you will learn how to easily create and optimally configure Kanban Boards in Jira, what Kanban actually is – also in comparison to Scrum – and how to optimally use the advantages of Kanban for your success.

 

What does Kanban mean? 🤔

Let’s start with the explanation of the term to fully understand the Kanban methodology. The word “Kanban” has its origin in Japanese and is composed of the characters “Kan” (for “visual” or “card”) and “Ban” (for “table” or “board”). Consequently, Kanban means something like: “visual board”.

Kanban was already developed in the 1940s by Toyota as a production system to increase efficiency and quality in manufacturing. A simultaneous cost reduction and optimization of inventory should also be fulfilled. Much later, the concept was transferred to other areas such as software development and project management. Today, Kanban is a popular method for improving workflows and processes in many industries where workflows are to be visualized in an agile manner to ultimately optimize workflow.

What is the Kanban methodology? 📈 

First things first: Kanban is not a framework, but a methodology used in managing work processes. A methodology is a systematic approach to achieve a specific goal, while a framework provides the structure and foundation to do so.

The Kanban methodology now describes the concept of agile project management based on visualizing the flow of work. Bottlenecks and waste are identified and avoided, and the cycle time of the work is shortened.

Features of Kanban

  • Visualization of the workflow
    • In order to have full transparency about the activities that occur, the workflow is visualized. This can be done on physical or digital boards. In this way, the entire team has a full overview of the status of the project at all times.

 

  • Pull principle

    • The pull principle states that new tasks are only pulled into the work process when the previous steps have been completed and your team has any capacity free at all. This promotes an even workload and continuously optimizes current processes.

 

  • Work in progress (WiP) limit

    • You can assign a maximum number of tasks that can be in process at the same time to each work step. This ensures that your team is not overloaded and that the quality of work is not sacrificed for quantity.

 

  • Continuous improvement

    • In the Kanban methodology, continuous improvement is an important component. Regular feedback from team members, customers or other stakeholders allows for dynamic adaptation and thereby optimization of the existing process.

 

  • Focus on Flow

    • Flow describes a continuous stream of work units without delays and interruptions. The focus here is on the rapid completion of tasks and the optimal coordination of each process step with the next. This ultimately shortens delivery times and increases customer satisfaction.

 

  • Team collaboration

    • In Kanban, each team member should actively and regularly participate in discussions and meetings to share knowledge and new experiences. A common status quo and shared vision help to build trust within the team and, as a result, achieve the goal faster and more efficiently.

 

  • Flexibility and adaptability

    • Kanban boards can be quickly and easily adapted to different industries and projects. In a fast-paced work environment, this feature is an immense advantage.

What is a Kanban Board? 📋

Just slipped out – but what is it actually, a Kanban Board?

A Kanban Board is used to visualize and control workflows and tasks in a Kanban system. Teams can better organize and prioritize their work by arranging their tasks in columns of the Kanban Board. The columns represent different stages of the workflow, for example: “To Do”, “In Progress”, or “Completed”. Tasks are noted on cards on the Kanban Board, which can be agilely moved to reflect the progress of the project.

There are physical Kanban boards and digital Kanban boards. The physical version is optimal if you are in the same room with your colleagues. In the age of remote work and global teams, the popularity of digital Jira Kanban Boards is on the rise.

Elements of a Kanban Board

Let’s make this abstract concept a bit more descriptive and go into the basic elements of a Kanban board. Some elements overlap with the features of Kanban in general, but at this point we would like to go into detail about them:

  • Visual cards

    • As already mentioned, on a Kanban board the tasks, bugs and work units are noted on so-called cards. To keep track of the complete process and promote productivity, don’t be too sparse with providing information on a card. Include all the important details such as the name of the task, a description, the status, deadlines and other details that are important for processing. For optimal transparency, it is also significant to have a separate card for each task.

 

  • Columns

    • In a Kanban board, columns are elements to arrange the workflow in different phases and thereby to arrange vertically visually. The totality of all columns represents the complete workflow. The cards with the described tasks move from column to column, through the complete process. In the last column, the tasks are considered “Done”. The columns of your Kanban Board can be customized to your needs in Jira.

 

  • Limits on Work-In-Progress

    • The maximum number of cards/tasks that can be dragged into a column is called Work-In-Progress limits. A column that has been assigned a WIP limit of 3 will not be able to pick up another card if there are already 3 cards assigned. By limiting the number of tasks that are in progress at the same time, transparency, and productivity increases. Bottlenecks can also be identified quickly.

 

  • Swimlanes

    • While workflows divide work vertically, swimlanes represent a horizontal grouping of issues. Swimlanes allow you to categorize tasks by other criteria, such as teams, processes, or departments, and prioritize them by urgency and importance at a glance.

 

  • Commitment Point

    • In a Kanban system, the Commitment Point is the point at which the team commits to completing the task – the starting point of the project, so to speak. At this point, a card is pulled from the backlog queue into the first column.

 

  • Delivery Point

    • At the end of each workflow or project is the Delivery Point. This state occurs when projects are transferred to the end customer. The goal of each project is to reach the delivery point as quickly as possible – but without sacrificing quality.

Backlog in Kanban

The Backlog in Kanban is not a real “element”, but rather a concept. Since it is however of immense importance, we want to explain it briefly here: The backlog includes all tasks that have not yet been implemented or started. It is a pool of tasks that are to be carried out in the future. As a central starting point for the work in the team, the backlog is updated regularly, so that after completion of a task, a new one can be started immediately.

 


How to create a Kanban Board in Jira ✔️

Enough about the basics: Let’s finally create a Kanban Board! However, since Kanban boards are components of Jira projects, if you want to create a board, you need to create a project first.

To do this, you can proceed as follows:

1. In Jira, find the dropdown menu: “Projects” in the upper-left corner of your screen. Under this selection, choose “Create Project”.

2. In the following step, you will now select “Kanban” from the numerous templates at Software development.

3. In the following, Atlassian allows you a small overview of the Kanban method. The information will help you decide if Kanban is really the right approach for your team. We click on “Use Template.”

4. Decide if you want to create a team-managed or a company-managed project and click on “select”.

5. Now you can and should enter the project details like name, key and so on. A meaningful project name helps company-wide transparency. For example, here is “Successful Cloud Migration.” After defining the access levels, click “next”.

6. Congratulations, you have successfully created a Kanban project, including a Kanban board in Jira!

 


Creating a new board in an existing Kanban project

However, it also happens that you already manage a well-running project and do not want to create a new project, but simply create a new Kanban board.

Then follow these instructions:

1. Open your Jira project, click on the dropdown menu in the upper-left corner, and then click on “Create board”.

2. In the next window, select the “Kanban board” option.

You also have the possibility to create a Kanban Board with sample data – ideal for first tests with new processes.

3. Then follows the selection to create a new project or integrate it into an existing one.

4. We integrate it into the existing project. And as you can see, we now have two boards in the Jira project!

In this way, you can also quickly and easily create a Kanban board in Jira. But creating the board is by far not everything! Much more important is the configuration. Therefore, let’s take a closer look at it now.

 


Configure Kanban Boards in Jira ✏️

To configure the board and its settings, you need to be either:

  • Project Administrator for the board location, or

  • Board Administrator for the board itself.

You handle configurations in the board settings:

Add or remove columns

You can add or remove columns to better reflect the workflow of your work.

To do so, simply navigate to “Add column” and select an appropriate description and the status of the column.

Add Work-In-Progress-Limits

A groundbreaking feature of the boards is the Issue Count: Here we would like to specify that our team cannot edit more than two issues in the feedback, for example. Once two issues are in the feedback column, no third issue can be added.

If there are already two tickets in feedback on the Kanban board, and you want to add a third one, it looks like this:

Add Swimlanes

To work with Swimlanes, you should create a Jira ticket beforehand and add it to your Kanban board. By default, issues with the “Highest” priority are categorized under the “Expedite” swimlane. All others fall under “Everything else.”

To add swimlanes, click “Swimlanes” in the board settings and then decide on which basis you want to assign your Jira issues. Here, we’ll choose Queries. With this, you can now add a JQL command to create a new swimlane. We’ll enter a JQL for all medium-priority issues and click “Add.”

As you can see, all tickets with medium priority have now moved to the new upper swimlane:

Quick Filters

If you want to quickly and easily filter your Kanban board by specific criteria such as epics, versions or components, you can create Quick Filters.

In the example, we add a filter by all issues that are of type Task using JQL “Type = Task”.

The new filter option has now been added to your Kanban board:

Change colors

Your Kanban Board is as colorful as you want it to be! Just adjust the colors of the cards and columns to better visualize your work. Right here we take the middle priority and give it a nice turquoise for optimized overview.

Other configurations

These were just the most important settings to help you get started with Kanban Boards. Some great additional configuration options are:

  • Add custom fields

    • Custom fields can be easily added by you to visualize more information on boards.

  • Board settings

    • We skipped this in our guide, but of course, you should always adjust the general settings of your situation first, like board visibility or sort order of cards.

Overall, configurations in Jira Kanban Boards provide a flexible way to accommodate your team’s individual needs and workflows, allowing you to use the Kanban system effectively.

 


Kanban vs. Scrum boards in Jira 🤓 

Now you know how to create and configure Kanban boards quickly and easily. But is Kanban even right for you? Wasn’t there something else?

Yes, namely Scrum.

In fact, the question of Scrum vs. Kanban comes up frequently these days. Both are agile methods to optimize the efficiency of teamwork and project management.

Common features of Scrum and Kanban are:

  • Support of continuous improvement

  • Incremental and iterative way of working

  • Identification and elimination of obstacles

  • Transparency and visualization of workflows

Differences of Kanban and Scrum are:

  • Scrum has fixed roles and events, while Kanban is more flexible

  • Kanban has a fluid way of working, Scrum works in fixed time periods (Sprints)

  • Kanban is better suited for teams with frequently changing priorities

  • Scrum needs more planning and predictability

Both methods have their strengths, so the choice of method should fit the specific needs of your organization or team.

Choose Scrum when:

  • The requirements of a project are clear and stable

  • A clearly defined end goal is in place

  • Your team is interdisciplinary

  • Priorities and requirements are known in advance

  • Your team members like to work with fixed roles

Choose Kanban when:

  • Project priorities and requirements change frequently

  • It is less about an end goal and more about continuous improvement

  • The focus is on optimal utilization of resources

  • No fixed time frame is needed for a piece of work

  • Your team members want to work without roles


Why use Kanban Boards in Jira? 🙌

Let’s summarize again the benefits of Kanban Boards to understand why you might want to use Kanban Boards in Jira:

Advantages of Kanban Boards

  • Visualization of the workflow, which makes it easier to see the progress of a project at a glance

  • Flexible customizability of Kanban Boards to meet the needs of your team

  • Increased transparency and team understanding of the work process

  • Work-In-Progress limits help to avoid overloads

  • Communication and cooperation in the team are promoted by Swimlanes, columns and the like

  • Scaling of the Kanban boards to the enterprise size is easily possible

 

1 comment

Derek Wrathell
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May 30, 2023

Is there a work item type, "card" for Kanban instead of teams being confused to select Epic, Feature, Story, etc. or will this be something each instance of the Jira Tool requires customization?

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